The Children’s Book Review | March 7, 2014
Camille Matthews is a licensed clinical social worker, an avid equestrian, and is certified in the field of equine-assisted psychotherapy. She established the Pathfinder Program, one of the first equine-assisted mental health programs in New Mexico. She lives in Mohrsville, Pennsylvania.
Bianca Schulze: Quincy and Buck is your third picture book in the “Quincy the Horse” series. In this particular adventure, Quincy finds himself challenged with overcoming fears and also facing a bully. Did you use your experiences as a social worker and equine assisted growth and learning specialist to develop the storyline?
Camille Matthews: As with all of the stories in the Quincy series, Quincy and Buck is based on events that really happened, so the main storyline originated there. From there the two factors you mentioned did influence how I developed the storyline.
My experience as a social worker and therapist influenced the way I worked with Quincy on facing his fears. As much as he wanted to, Quincy could not wish away his fears of wild animals or produce a desired feeling like bravery without actually going on a ride. Until he got out on the trail, he could not know what would happen or how it would feel. My knowledge also led me to highlight that the crisis Quincy faced helped him become stronger. I think younger readers will be reassured by a comforting ending. Third and fourth graders will learn in more depth about coping with adversity and how courage evolves.
Being an equine assisted growth and learning specialist affected how I saw the relationship between Quincy and Buck. In EAL we use horses to teach people about themselves by having them observe horses and how they interact with each other. Horses are relational and have clear rules for behavior. Like people, they also display bad behavior and they have to work out boundaries and limits. Horses and kids have a lot in common in this area so kids will identify with Quincy and learn from observing how he and Buck interacted.
BS: What do you hope readers will take away from a story-time session of Quincy and Buck?
CM: First of all, I hope they love going on a day’s trail ride and learning about the desert because it is one of the most amazing and beautiful places in the world.
Next I hope they are encouraged to face fears head on and to see that the things we fear most often do not even happen.
The last thing has to do with bullies and communication. In my story time sessions over the last year, I have mentioned that in his next adventure, Quincy meets a bully. I have discovered that my readers know a lot about bullies and bullying and are ready to have a conversation about this. I hope Quincy and Buck will help them understand more about bullies and get them talking about this with each other, parents, teachers, classmates. Hopefully developing openness about the topic now can help when and if they face the problem in the later grades and in high school.
BS: How long did it take you to write this book? And who are your reading critics and when do you decide your story is ready for publication?
CM: Quincy and Buck took several years. Once I have the story in manuscript form, Michele Black and I plan the illustrations and go over the story again. We have a designer and several editors who give input at various times along the way, but Michelle is a great reading critic. With a children’s picture book, so much comes down to the choice of a particular word. As an artist and also a person of fewer words than I am, she often comes up with just the right suggestion.
BS: Michelle Black does a lovely job with the illustrations, are her paintings inspired by the real Quincy?
CM: Yes, Michelle knows the real Quincy quite well. Actually Michelle paints from photographs. An important step when we are working on a book is that I take various photographs of Quincy and send them to her. Michelle chooses which ones she wants to use for the illustrations. In addition to the detail and use of color that make her paintings so striking, she is able to capture the emotions he is experiencing. Over the course of the series, she has created many paintings of Quincy, but each one is unique.
BS: At what point in your life did you realize you wanted to be a writer? And what was your path to becoming a published author?
CM: I had enjoyed writing as a child and teenager but I did not find support for this in my college experience. I ended up studying history and psychology. My efforts to create the Quincy the Horse series led me to first explore the area of writing and publishing very recently,8 years ago. Once I finished the first manuscripts, I discovered that going through a traditional publisher would likely mean that they would choose the illustrator and style. Since the series revolved around the real Quincy and his life, I had a certain vision for the books and this was a huge stumbling block for me. Around this time I met Michelle and saw her work. It matched the vision I had for the books. We decided that our energy would be best spent bringing the series to life ourselves. Self publishing was just catching on so we went for that option.
BS: What does a typical writing day look like for you? And do you have a favorite place to write?
CM: I had a favorite office in my home in New Mexico where I lived for 12 years. It looked out onto my front yard and horse barn. It had a set of glass shelves where I kept family pictures and mementos, and an armchair. It was there that I outlined all the stories in the Quincy series. Then when I was taking it further and expanding the dialog, I would go for a trail ride on Beau or Quincy along the very trail described in Quincy and Buck. As with many authors, I would listen to the characters and then come home and write it down.
BS: What were your favorite children’s books when you were a little girl?
CM: Charlotte’s Web was my favorite. I felt like Fern. She always wanted to go to the barn and see Wilbur and her mother was frustrated and a little worried about it. I was a tomboy who loved animals and my mother and I did not share the same interests. In addition to animals, I loved words and I admired Charlotte’s ability to choose just the right word for her web.
BS: If you could be reincarnated as your favorite literary character, who would you choose and why?
CM: When you ask that question, I picture myself entering the story and going on the journey with the character rather than actually becoming the character. A first choice would be to enter the Black Stallion stories from my childhood. More recently, I have been fascinated by the graphic novels of Brian Selznick, The Invention of Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck. His style truly made me feel that I had entered the story.
BS: Should we expect to see more “Quincy the Horse” books from you? And, if so, what adventure or hardships will Quincy take on next?
CM: We have two more Quincy books in mind. One is about sibling rivalry. Quincy feels very jealous of a big, beautiful horse that comes to live in the barn and gets all the attention. Michelle and I have also discussed a story entitled, “Quincy and the Homeless Horses”. This would deal with Beau’s passing on and how Quincy and Cam deal with the loss by adopting three old ranch horses. Many parents have asked me to write about death and loss something that many children have to face.
BS: As a parting note, is there anything you would like to share with your readers?
CM: I want to invite them to visit our website www.quincythehorse.com and our Facebook community www.facebook.com/quincythehorse to learn more about the Quincy series and meet the real Quincy and his friends. I also want to mention my blog Pathfinder Pursuits www.pathfinderpursuits.com where I write about everything that happens at Pathfinder Farm. In addition to our horses and horse therapy program, we have chickens and an organic garden. I am also happy that along with the release of Quincy and Buck in hardcover, we will be releasing all three Quincy the Horse books in every type of ebook format.
Praise for Quincy and Buck
“This is a lovely picture book that showcases the skills of asking for help, facing fears and harnessing inner bravery. Quincy and Buck is a great trail riding adventure for horse lovers and provides a wonderful opportunity to open up dialogue about bullying with kids ages 5 – 8.”
Add this book to your collection: Quincy and Buck
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